{Experimenting with Eggplant: an Italian inspired vegetarian sandwich}

Summary:

I had never successfully cooked eggplant before. I’ve always been drawn to this vegetable due to its lovely color, shiny cover and peculiar shape. Besides its appearance it also has a meaty attribute which makes it a perfect vegetarian/vegan ingredient. Additionally it’s currently in season.This has definitely inspired me to try other recipes with this vegetable! But for today…an Italian inspired vegetarian sandwich will do. Most Italian eggplant recipes are loaded with creamy tomato sauces and fresh mozzarella. My version is very different. No heavy sauce…and cheese…well it’s optional. (I used reduced fat cheese which is a nice compromise). I’ve got to tell you eggplant is really “heavy” – after eating this sandwich I feel very full. . .so this is one of its potential benefits. Furthermore this vegetable is considered a good source of fiber and antioxidants. There is one specific antioxidant in the eggplant skin that has been found to be neuro-protective: Nasunin.  This chemical is a free radical scavenger that has been shown to protect cell membranes from the damage. Additionally it also contains a phenolic compound called chlorogenic acid, which is one of the most potent free radical scavengers found in plant tissues. Benefits attributed to chlorogenic acid include antimutagenic (anti-cancer), antimicrobial, anti-aging, anti-LDL (bad cholesterol) and antiviral activities. So eating eggplant may promote cardiovascular health plus help support your immune system against common colds and even some bacterial & fungal infections.

Ingredients:
2 small eggplants
1 small white onion
6-7 white mushrooms
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup spinach
1/3 cup white wine
2 minced garlic cloves

extra virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar

WW sandwich or pita slices

optional: cheese of preference (suggestions: reduced fat mozzarella, swiss, ricotta)
Servings: 4
Directions:

1. PREPING THE EGGPLANT:
Peel some of the skin but not all – of both eggplants (see picture below). Cut lengthwise forming wide strips. Place in a medium size mixing bowl. Sprinkle with some generous amount of salt. Add pepper, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Stir. Add the chopped basil and parsley. Let marinate for 20 min covered. This will release some of the eggplant juices.

2. COOKING THE VEGETABLES:
In a large non stick skillet add some olive oil (~ 1.5 tbsp). Add the sliced onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook on medium heat until caramelized. Add some water to enhance the process.

Pour the eggplant mixture into the pan. Mix gently. Add the wine, cover and let cook for 15 additional min. on medium low heat.

3. SERVING SUGGESTIONS:
Add slices of cheese of preference (I used swiss) over the vegetable mixture and let melt. Spoon the mixture into a toasted bread slice, add spinach/tomato or anything else you want! Eat as an open faced sandwich, a full sandwich, a veggie wrap or a stuffed pita.

 


4. LEFTOVER IDEAS:
**Instant Dinner ->  Boil some pasta, chop the leftover mixture, toss with some extra virgin olive oil, shave some parmesan on top = yummy veggie pasta.

**Appetizer/Snack idea -> use an electric chopper/grinder to puree everything until creating an “Eggplant Caviar”. I suggest adding some parmesan cheese as well and/or drizzling with some truffle oil. Serve with warm bread.

 

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